My Personal Story of Serial Dating Narcissists and How I Broke Free
This article is where I give myself permission to become vulnerable in front of you.
Let me begin by openly admitting to my streak of dating full-of-themselves-ego-driven-think-they-know-it-all-narcissictic men. There, I said it. Even dating coaches can fall into the trap.
I found myself going for men who at first glance “appeared” (key word = appeared) incredible, amazing, suave, selfless, giving, loving, caring, affectionate – the list goes on.
Looks can be deceiving.
Once I got past the rose colored facade, I quickly learned how to spot a narcissist from across a computer screen.
However, this article is not about how I overcame dating narcissists and how I quickly learned to spot red flags. No, this article is all about what happens when we do not allow ourselves to break free from them.
See, once upon a time I dated a guy who had a profession that caused him to be in the limelight. He would portray himself to the public as the ideal altruist – one who lives his life in service to others. He was born with a big purpose, one that still is very much alive and present in his life today, and this purpose made it easy for outsiders to see him as this incredibly selfless human being. A true superhero, at least that’s how he was/is perceived. His mother was utterly obsessed with him (which probably didn’t help his already ego-driven self-image). And media ate his story up, reporter after reporter waiting to anxiously publicize his next big move. He gave people something to talk about.
The problem with outsiders is they never really get an opportunity to see what goes on behind closed doors. I was the “lucky” one who got to experience him in all his glory.
So without further ado, I want to take this opportunity to place a microscope over the subtle nuances that happen to us women, mostly things we are not consciously aware of at the time, when we fall for a glorified narcissist.
1. The first thing I noticed when dating a narcissist is that I had no voice
Anything and everything that came out of my mouth (that’s if I even had the guts to speak), was always thoroughly thought through before spoken out loud, out of fear that he would respond in a belittling or condescending way. Anything he could do to make me feel “small” and insignificant, he would.
I would literally feel like there was a ball stuck in my throat and that anything I wanted to say, if I thought it could result in an attack from him, I just kept to myself. It seemed like the safer thing to do at the time.
One thing I realized when I established the courage to get out of this jail once and for all was that the reason narcissists make you feel small is because deep down they feel much smaller than you, which causes them to say whatever it takes to make you believe that you’re smaller than them.
2. My sense of “self” disappeared
Another thing a narcissist will do, and they are extremely skilled at it, is make you feel like everything you do is wrong. At least that’s how I felt when I found myself in these self-destructive relationships. My self-confidence began to become completely reliant on his idea of me. If he believed that I was too “free-spirited” I would begin to act more conventional, to try to prove to him that I was capable of being the perfect woman for him. Talk about inauthenticity at its finest! God, I wish I knew what I was thinking at the time! I remember thinking to myself, “what happened to this incredibly confident and self-loving girl who everybody loved being around?” She was still in there – only she needed to come out from hiding.
I recall being told once by one of the narcissists of boyfriends past, that flat boots were for men only and that women who wore them look like Robin Hood (not to mention I own a bunch of flat boots which I love to wear in the Fall). So what did I do? When I was around him I made sure to only flaunt my heeled boots. I mean, naturally right? Isn’t our life’s purpose as women to make sure we always dress the way our men want us to? NOT!!!
I saw my life begin to revolve around HIS needs, HIS wants, HIS desires… even HIS schedule! That’s right, I would create a schedule around his. I found myself postponing plans with my girlfriends until I was certain that him and I were not going to see each other. But of course, if he suddenly became available, I had my plans coincidentally change and I conveniently became available too!
What did I learn from this once I realized what was actually happening?
I learned this subtle truth: there are 3 types of men.
Type 1: The man who meets a woman and sees her power right away, but he knows that he won’t be able to match her so he immediately decides not to pursue her.
Type 2: The man who meets a woman and sees her power, and because he would like to see himself as powerful too, he decides to pursue her, but quickly does everything in his power to clip her wings so that she can’t fly. These relationships are destructive for both people involved.
Type 3: The man who meets a woman and sees her power, and because he knows that he is authentically powerful as well (and not from a place of ego), he pursues her and together they fly. – this is the Jay-Z and Beyonce type of power couple where the two enhance one another. These couples can truly change the world.
Can you guess which type the narcissist falls into? That’s right… Type 2! A narcissist will see your Goddess power right away – because all women have it – but he is so skilled at what he does, that he manages to clip her wings and prevents her from flying.
3. Because I didn’t feel SEEN, I never felt I was “enough”
Another thing I remember constantly feeling was that I would never be good enough, smart enough, attractive enough. Even though deep down I knew I was accomplished – cum laude graduate from NYU who had traveled the world to speak in front of large audiences and had her own business that she created from scratch. I knew… but I forgot. It’s easy to allow other people’s opinions of us take over and redefine our self-image.
One of the things I learned coming out of these destructive relationships was that I never felt seen because I never allowed myself to be seen. It takes two to tango. I had to do some inner work and recognize why I felt this need to be with a man who made me earn his love. It felt like work. It was work! There was something living inside of me that must’ve enjoyed putting in that much effort to feel noticed.
So what happens next?
What did I learn coming out of these narcissistic ties? I learned to stop trying to make a man SEE me. To begin to date a man who can look past his own traumatic patterns (usually related to an ex they used to have), and to see me, for me. To notice my inner light and to notice the details. A man who pays attention to me when I don’t notice he’s watching. A man who loves the crease my cheeks make when I smile. A man who recognizes my power because he is aware of his, and together we can change the world.
Call me an idealist. But as John Lennon once said, “you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” The best advice I can give to you is, if you find yourself stuck doing any of the things I’ve listed above, learn how to listen to that soft voice in your heart when it tells you to run, then find the strength to do just that.
And last but not least, I do want to take a moment to express my gratitude for these men who have come into my life when they did. I am grateful for the lessons, I am grateful for the abilities I’ve received to help other women as a result of the experiences we’ve shared, and last but not least I am grateful for the content I now have to write this article and share it with those who deserve to be SEEN.
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